The #ORWinter Wrap-up

A detailed summary of the social media conversation during the outdoor industry winter trade show

By Channel Signal Analysts James Mills, David Sweeney and Paul Kirwin

At the 2010 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market boosters of specialty products and services had a unique opportunity to participate in a conversation about the show, brands and events. Broadcast over the #ORWinter Twitter feed hosted and monitored by Channel Signal, even outdoor professionals who couldn’t attend the event were able to login and share the flow of information
“From my perspective, it was great to be able to participate with OR, without being there,” said William Roth (@williamroth), social network coordinator of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyoming. “I liked seeing twitpics with new/conceptual products. I was able to learn about #guerillapanel and build my outdoor industry base of twitter users. It also made me realize just how much I need to be attending OR in the summer.”
By simply including #ORWinter in their entries of 140 characters or less Twitter users shared photographs, videos and abbreviated links to blog web sites. Anyone on the planet with Internet access could see and follow the comment stream in real-time throughout the four-day event, including the on-snow demo. And on the show floor, exhibitors and key industry influencers were able to use the power of social media to generate excitement and drive traffic to their booths.

Those brands that hosted exciting industry events generated the most traffic. Teva’s live music party on the 2nd night of the show raised the conversation quotient among Tweeters with large followings, posting 29,250 social media impressions at the show. For each Tweeter who shared information about Teva, an equal number of their total followers got the word. Keen Footwear also had an impressive showing with 24,241 impressions during the show. In-booth promotions to benefit Haitian earthquake relief as well as several videos posted to YouTube were likely contributors to Keen’s success. The brand encouraged its fans to become engaged throughout OR and for a few days afterward
“We wanted to keep it simple and authentic so that people could have real-time interaction with our brand, “said Keen spokesman Chris Enlow. “ We wanted to come up with creative ways to reach our fans and not just the people at the show. If we just focused on ‘Orwinter’, the hash tag, we would have missed out on an opportunity to build our community.”

But it wasn’t just the big brands that did well in the social media rankings. The company Naturally Bamboo was ranked 4th with 18,754 impressions. Owner and exhibitor April Femrite aggressively used the #ORWinter channel to talk up her business and she enlisted the help of others. For example this message was posted by leading outdoor industry social media influencer Sara Lingafelter AKA @theclimbergirl: “Wardrobe change thanks to @naturallybamboo. This dress is so incredibly comfy, I feel like I’m running around naked. #orwinter”
Original messages like this one about @naturallybamboo were shared repeatedly across the Internet. It’s likely that a conversation about a naked @theclimbergirl was passed around peer to peer with more than a few chuckles. And with each re-tweet was also sent and received a message about the comfort of a dress made by Naturally Bamboo.
“I hope this proves to be a social media success story,” said Femrite. “I don’t have a huge marketing budget. All I have is social media, Facebook and Twitter, to build buzz and bring my brand to the attention of my customers.”

Two of the most talked about exhibitors weren’t brands but non-profit organizations, 1% For The Planet and The Conservation Alliance. With the help of key influencers who support these groups the issues of wildlife conservation and environmental conservation became top-of-mind.
“Social media makes the connection between brands, causes and adventurers clearer than ever before,” said Emily Nuchols, an industry influencer and a principle at Under Solen Media. “It’s not about who gets the most action on Twitter, it’s about who uses their social media to take action on things that matter. We believe in the power of social media to make positive change, and we believe in people who are passionate about their causes — be they businesses, advocates or adventurers.”
Nuchols posted information about the groups bi-annual breakfast meeting and spread the word on several promotional fundraising events held on the Conservation Alliance’s behalf at the booths of many different exhibitors.

On the other side of the issue, Malcolm Daly, founder of the climbing equipment company Trango has been attending OR since the 70’s and is a self-described skeptic. “I have high hopes but low expectations for the #ORWinter channel,” he said in a blog post a week before the show. “It’s already inundated with 140 character versions of the 40 year old press release, posted (tweeted) up by people and companies who don’t get it. Why would I bother to take notice of those if I never even bothered to take notice of them before?”
To Daly’s point if users of social media employ traditional techniques of one-way communications to connect with their audience very little of the conversation will change. But those brands and individuals who actively engage in a dialog, sharing and responding to pertinent and compelling information, can indeed use networks like the #ORWinter feed to their benefit.

Many will likely ask: “Was the #ORWinter experiment a success?” That’s like asking if a conversation at a cocktail party was successful. The more pertinent questions are: Was the discussion lively and informative? Did you discover anything new? Did you come away with the knowledge that you were not only heard but also listened to? Would you engage in this kind of conversation in the future?
Social media neither succeeds nor fails, it simply is. In the free exchange of ideas one will only get out of a conversation as much as he or she is prepared to put into it. Those who created meaningful content, those who responded directly to the questions or comments of others and those who shared what they discovered with the conversation at large will inevitably be the most successful users of social media.

Below are the top tens in both Brands and Influencers.

Note: Possible impressions= the number of  mentions of that brand by unique users (X)  their followers. This number excludes retweets, ( people who were passing a tweet along).

Top Ten Brands                                                           Impressions

@TevaMeansNature (Teva)                                                        29,250

@keen_shoes ( Keen Footwear)                                               25,241

@conservationall (The Conservation Alliance)                   21, 252

@naturallybamboo (Naturally Bamboo)                               18,754

@DfaDogs (D-fa Dogs)                                                                9,981

@hardwear (Mountain Hardwear)                                           9,633

@1PercentFTP (1% For The Planet)                                         7,276

@haikubags (Haiku)                                                                    6,780

@montrail (Montrail)                                                                   4,917

@chacousa (Chaco)                                                                      4,045

Total generated by the Top Ten                                             118,375

Top Ten Influencers                   Mentions                           Followers

@theclimbergirl 15                                  3,370
@PembaServes 12                                  1,123
@Eliz_Castro 11                                  1,662
@undersolen 10                                     461
@wude72 10                                11,181
@saralingafelter 9                                      549
@canoelover 9                                       461
@RepGirl 8                                       215
@TheGearJunkie 7                                    3,191
@highsteph 7                                    1,758

Total number of Followers                                                   23,971


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I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

7 Responses to “The #ORWinter Wrap-up”

  1. February 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    I'm posting the same comment to the JoyTripProject version of this report, and the ChannelSignal one… please forgive me the repetition!

    I'm not aware of my tweet that you quoted regarding @naturallybamboo being repeated or passed along with chuckles or otherwise… perhaps I missed something, but I monitor my @replies and RT's and didn't see that one get “picked up” until it was just repeated here.

    True, anything I say online is meant to be read, and it's public. And, I'm a huge fan of April and her apparel. But, unless I'm missing something, the commentary on the impact of that tweet is inaccurate, and exploitive. Yes, I was tweeting in my private capacity at that point; but I am also a colleague and professional in this industry, and that commentary might have unintended consequences for my professional reputation, among folks in the biz who don't know me personally the way the authors of this analysis do.

    I'd also add my observation that @naturallybamboo's “social media success” at the show had a very small amount to do with actual tweets. Her influence at the show was, in my view, based on the actual real life relationship building she hustled to do. When she didn't have meetings, she was on the show floor meeting people, making connections, and likely meeting new “Twitter” friends — but also making an impression in person, face to face. The importance of the “real life” aspect of relationship building at the show — while outside the scope of data you can measure based on analysis of the #ORWinter tag — is the real story as far as I'm concerned.

    Thanks, each of you, for your hard work during the show and after!

  2. February 4, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Ok, so much for heading to lunch. This post prompts an immediate reply. If my repost of your tweet and my take on its potential impact caused you to take offense I apologize. I count you among my friends and I'd sooner carve out my own heart with a spoon than cause you a moment's grief. To say that my use of your message was exploitative I stand justly accused. I admit that I latched on to it because it was both provocative and helped to make several points. First it is an example of the kind of silly, non-sensical detritus that passes for communication in the 140 character Twitterverse. But second and more importantly it also contained a real and potent message about the characteristics of a brand exhibited at the show. I suspected that it might have been retweeted, because had I seen it as part of the immediate content stream and not in the analysis of the data I might have retweeted myself. I thought it was funny. And because you put it out there I naturally assumed you thought it was funny too and expected it to be shared.
    This is an old lesson we each must continue to learn. ANYTHING shared online is fair game and open to conversation. But sincerely, it was not my intention to cause you embarrassment or to anyway sully your professional reputation. If that indeed happened I am very sorry.

    Regarding your comment in reference to Naturally Bamboo's “social media success” I couldn't agree more. April was working the show floor from set-up to tear-down. But for the purposes our analysis, a quantitative report on social media activity, all I can speak to knowledgeably is the traffic she generated online. It goes without saying that April promoted her brand incredibly well with minimal resources. She outperformed literally hundreds of other exhibitors with much bigger staffs and even dipper pockets. She also demonstrated the effectiveness of social media as brand building buzz generating tool. I'm certain that real face time had a lot to do with her success but that kind of qualitative anecdotal information was just not in our mix of reference materials. But you make a very good point in that we need make sure that online communication is ultimately a vehicle through which we facilitate real world direct interaction and not the sole means through which we connect.
    That's why I'm counting on seeing you in person in the not too distant future fully expecting a hug and not a slap across the face

  3. February 5, 2010 at 12:44 am #

    James… lunch is SACRED. The Internet will still be here when you're fed.

    I appreciate your response. I'm just a stickler for accuracy, especially when I'm the subject. While it still amazes me that people read the (to quote a commenter on my blog) “self-indulgent…dreck” that I write, some people do. I try not to think too much about it, or to take things like today personally, because if I did I'd have to apply such a fine filter to every word I typed, that nothing would ever make it through.

    I have no problem with being quoted accurately, as much as I'd be perfectly happy to toil in obscurity. I am just sensitive to the implications of the liberties taken with actual facts in that particular commentary, since the post implies that there was some buzz about that tweet, when there actually was absolutely zero, until today.

    It's not an easy task to balance the job I have, with my “free time” activities, and to maintain a reputation (which, if I may be so bold, I think I've earned) of professionalism and smarts. But, that's getting personal.

    The less-personal is… think about other influencers who might be reading all this. Being listened to is one thing. Being made some kind of example of, to assist with a literary or analytical point, is another.

    It's water under the bridge, I get to respond by participating in the conversation, that's cool. I'm just disappointed. I generated some content that I'm really proud of, in very limited free time, while on the show floor… which DID create actual, organic buzz and triggered conversation. I'd much rather my #ORWinter activities be remembered for that, if anything.

    Thanks for the response, and I'll see you soon!

  4. February 9, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    Great piece and even better discussions.

    When it comes to metrics, we have to be clear and transparent. One of the reasons I feel print is hitting hard times is because of inflated metrics. Online channels, social media, Web 3.14 all allow easier methods of tracking impressions and activity, versus say a magazine that has a deal with a hotel chain and is left untouched on your room's coffee table.


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